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December 16, 2013

Let's Have a Snowball Fight!

It all started with a bucket of snowballs...

I saw this online a couple of weeks ago and just had to get them!  It's a bucket of six, soft, fluffy snowballs whose sole purpose in life is to be thrown.  I mean, come on, who doesn't want that???
So of course I've found MULTIPLE ways to use them.

I've got several little preschoolers who struggle with following simple directions, so my first thought was to use this with them.  Here's what I did:

I made a set of cards for following simple directions that include snowmen throwing snowballs and Christmas vocabulary.  I also made matching vocabulary cards that were a little larger, which I taped to some cardboard blocks to use as targets.  I set up two blocks at a time at the edge of the table, and separated the cards into two stacks and placed them face down on the table.  Next, we turned over the top card of each pile and read the direction together.  In the example above, we said, "Throw a snowball at the elf."  I gave the child one snowball and she threw it at the corresponding block until she knocked it down.  Then we repeated the steps with the remaining cards and blocks.  This game was a big hit (pardon the pun!)!!!

I was thinking you could do this, too, even if you don't own a set of snowballs like these.  You could roll up white socks to make your own snowballs, or you could use Styrofoam balls that you can find at a craft store.   You could use tissue boxes instead of cardboard blocks.  And you could use these, too:

Just a little freebie for you to have a little fun with this last week before Christmas.

You can find it right here,  at my TpT store.

So of course, I couldn't just leave it at keeping this activity for Christmas.  I want to use it all winter long!  And I wanted it to be useful for a wider variety of preschoolers.  So, I made another set, this one for working on following directions that include size concepts, prepositions and winter vocabulary.

Now we have six choices for actions.  The basic set...

...and at the request of faithful reader, Maria, a second set for more complex directions.

We also have...

...two sizes of snowballs to throw ( I added a bucket of cotton balls to the mix)...

...twelve winter vocabulary words on object cards...

...and 12 vocabulary cards to be used as targets.  This is what it looks like when we play:

Of course, the target blocks are not really this close to the picture cards when we play.  I just had to move them together for the picture.  Sometimes I even move the target blocks to various places in the room for bigger throws.  It just depends on the age and ability of the child.

I also decided to add preposition cards to this set.  There are five different prepositions in all and 4 blank snowball cards for you to customize according to your needs.

When using the preposition cards, I remove the action cards from play, because in this version, the child does NOT throw a snowball.  The child puts the snowball in the correct location as described by the action and object cards.  Like this:

You can increase the level of difficulty by adding the size cards, or by adding a second object, and by combining cards in a variety of other ways.

Do you like this one, too?  Find it here.

Here's another idea for your toddlers:  

Sorting snowballs by size!  With a little bit of throwing them thrown in for fun.

December 6, 2013

Early Speech Sounds Spinner Christmas Freebie

I'm so excited to share this Freebie with you!  I call it the Santa Sound Spinner -Final K edition.  It is part of a complete set of spinners and lotto boards that I'm almost ready to publish, but I just couldn't wait to share just this one piece with you!  My kids and I have been playing with it all week and loving it.

So what's it all about?  It's a spinning disk with 10 target words that fastens to the back of the Santa page.  Kids get to "open a present" and look inside to see a picture that goes with their target sound.  Here's what the disk looks like:

And here's the Santa page:

See those dotted lines around the green present?  You cut along each side and the bottom to create a peek-a-boo flap that the kids lift to see a picture.  Kids spin the disk by pushing the picture to the left or right to reveal the next picture.

You can play this game two ways.  If you're playing with more than one person, give each person a lotto board, and as the pictures are revealed, players cover the matching picture on their board.

Single players can spin the disk, say the word and then cover the dot on this Santa page using a dot marker or a chip (or maybe even a cotton ball, which might be really fun...you could have a "snowball fight" with the cotton balls after the game is finished!)  (I'm trying this TODAY!)

This freebie includes four lotto boards and spinner for the final /k/ sound.  If you like this one, be sure to check back soon for additional sound sets, because I've got a Princess and Superhero set that includes P, B, T, D, K and G in the initial and final position almost completed, and I might even make a few more Christmas sets.

Newsflash!!!  I had some extra time this afternoon and pulled together a Christmas Set for P and B sounds.  This set contains 4 lotto boards for each sound in the initial and final position...16 boards in all!  It is available in my TpT store.

If you'd like a copy of the freebie, visit my TpT site here and please be sure to leave feedback!

Merry Christmas!

October 22, 2013

Trick or Treating Practice

I don't know about you, but I get asked by parents each October about how to practice the whole trick-or-treating sequence with their child.  Halloween is one of the most exciting holidays for most kids, from toddler years through middle school, and every parent wants their kids to be able to participate to their fullest potential.

One place I like to start is with a toy house and figurines and a social story.  The house I have is from Melissa and Doug.  It's made of wood and has four separate doors with locks and keys and four figurines.  I usually read the social story I posted last year to introduce the activity.  It's a very simple story, shows the trick-or-treating sequence clearly and is easy to use.  After reading the social story, we move right to the house.

We take a figurine, have it ring a doorbell, and then open the door.  I will either have a picture of a child wearing a costume inside the house, or another figurine.  We practice saying "trick or treat!" after the door is opened, pretend to hand out candy, say thank you, and then close the door and say good-bye.  Then we turn the house and move to the next door.

This is a great opportunity for my non-verbal kiddos to practice using a voice output device.  I like these simple single-message devices which are easy to record and easy to carry.  You can find these or something similar at Mayer-Johnson's website.  I programmed mine so one says "trick or treat" and the other says "thank you".

The kids never seem to tire of this activity, so I've learned to extend it to work on other goals as well.  I keep a stack of cards of kids in costumes close by so we can change out who answers the door or rings the doorbell.  It's a great way to learn new vocabulary and work on articulation.  I got my cute set of trick or treaters from Carrie's Speech Corner last year and they continue to be a hit with the kids.

Another thing the kids love to do is to decorate the house for Halloween.  I keep a variety of cutouts that I made with Scrappin Doodles clipart close at hand.  The kids tell me which piece they would like to have and where they plan to put it, and then stick them to the house with tape or other removable adhesive.  They love to create silly Halloween houses, which often leads into them telling me how their own house is decorated.  It's the perfect opportunity to work on descriptors, vocabulary and comparisons.

I have also used the clipart cutouts for following auditory directions.   Here's a sample of some of my directions:

 You can email me if you'd like a copy.

Sometimes the kids like to hide something in the house and give me directions on where to look, such as "look in the house that has a red door with pumpkins next to it."  They love to be the teacher, too! There are SO MANY ways to use this set of materials for SO MANY goals!  If you don't have this exact house, I'm guessing any toy house would work.  All it has to have is a door that opens and closes.  You could even use a barn and pretend it's a house.  Whichever house you decide to use, I'm sure your kids will love practicing trick-or-treating as much as mine do.

Happy Halloween!


October 14, 2013

Halloween Eraser Fun

This little jar of Halloween-themed erasers has been my go-to material for the past week.  Who knew that an inexpensive little bag of erasers that I picked up at a craft store was worth its weight in gold?  Let me show you some of the ways I've been using them.

I used them for sorting with some little orange buckets I found at Target in the dollar section.  They were perfect for my little Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) kids working on Consonant-Vowel pairs while we said "in" and "out".  Then we turned the buckets over and put the erasers "on" and "off".  Then I used them with preschoolers for following directions such as "Put a bat on the bucket with a ghost".

I used them with every articulation kiddo I saw, too.  Last year I printed off this great pumpkin from 3Dinosaurs.com and laminated it.  I give the kids a handful of erasers and have them put one eraser on a dot on the pumpkin after they say a target word/sentence a pre-determined number of times.  It's fun to watch them decide where to place their erasers.  Some make patterns, some put them in rows and some just place them randomly.  But no matter where they put them, we get lots of opportunities to practice sounds.

Here's another version of using erasers to track productions.  I use these strips with my younger kiddos who need to work in shorter bursts of time.  Like the example above with the pumpkin, kids put an eraser on a picture on the strip after attempting a target word.  After filling a strip with 5 bats, I give them a new strip with pumpkins or ghosts and fill that one, too.  I don't know about you, but I am always looking for ways to get my littlest friends to give me at least 10 good attempts at saying new words.  This one usually works for me.  I like to change it up a bit and let them select which strip they'd like to cover, so I made four different ones for Halloween.

Gotta love those cute Halloween graphics from Scrappin' Doodles!  I'd love to share these with you if you'd like.  Just click here.

One last way I used them was to hide a bunch in my tub of beans.  It's all kinds of fun!  And speech and language opportunities abound.  What kid doesn't love to dig for "treasure"?

What are your ideas?  I'm sure you can think of a few...

April 30, 2013

Buggy Mats: Open-Ended Activity Mats

I just love open-ended materials that can be used for multiple purposes, don't you?  I purchased some adorable bug graphics earlier this spring when I made Froggy's Feeding Frenzy and decided to use them to make a set of activity mats.

You can use these versatile mats with play dough....

...or with your chips and magnet from Super Duper's Chipper Chat...

...or with dot paints for any speech and language goal you can think of!

There are five adorable mats in this set, and they can be found here.  Graphics credits go to Goodness & Fun on etsy.com and Kelly Medina Studios.

Have fun!


April 21, 2013

Pick Up the Trash! Freebie for /p/, /b/ and /m/

I've got a two-year-old who is OBSESSED with garbage trucks...and that's not exaggerating!  So instead of trying to fight his obsession, I decided to make a garbage truck/trash game to work on his goals.  And, since it's Earth Day tomorrow, I thought I'd share it with you.

Here's what you do.  Print the garbage trucks on cardstock and cut the page in half.  Attach them to an empty tissue box (the larger Kleenex boxes work the best), one on each side.  Make sure the opening of the box faces up.

Cut out the cards and scatter them on the table or on the floor.  Have the child push the garbage truck box to each trash can and say the word as he/she puts the trash can in the box.

So easy, and so fun...especially for boys who LOVE garbage trucks!  I'm sure it will be a hit.  If you'd like a copy,  you can find it on my TpT store here.


April 18, 2013

Activities for Modifying Resting Posture...Permanently!

First, let me say this for the record:  I am NOT an orofacial myologist, and tongue thrust is NOT my specialty.  I have attended multiple trainings/workshops on use of oral-motor strategies, however, and have a pretty strong knowledge base regarding the anatomy and physiology of the the lips, tongue and jaw.  Enough that when an older client is referred to me for a an articulation concern and I observe oral motor difficulties within the realm of my knowledge base, I can treat them.

These are some of the difficulties I see that I feel comfortable and trained to remediate:

--  limited range of motion in the tongue
--  difficulty with tongue-jaw dissociation
--  lack of tongue tip elevation
--  weak jaw strength/stability
--  poor grading of jaw
--  lack of tongue retraction at rest
--  difficulty achieving lateral touch points of the tongue to the palate to produce /s/ or /sh/

All of these difficulties contribute to a resting posture that is not conducive to a mature swallow or precise articulation of speech sounds.  Kids like this are easy to spot.  They often have low muscle tone in the face, lips and/or tongue.  They may have an open bite, cross bite or other malocclusion that requires orthodontic treatment.  And they often demonstrate anterior tongue positioning at rest, sometimes with their tongue protruding between their teeth and lips.

I've got several kids working on developing a correct resting posture (i.e. tongue retracted, jaw slightly open, lips closed or slightly parted, and tongue tip touching the alveolar ridge), and let me tell you, it is a tough one!  Muscle memory is a tough habit to break, and to replace an old habit with a new behavior is SO DIFFICULT.  The process takes lots and lots of repetitions of exercises, which can be tedious and tiring.  So I've tried to make it a little more fun.  I want to share a number of activities with you that have worked well for me in developing and maintaining correct resting posture.

Let's assume that the clients you are working with can demonstrate jaw grading and have sufficient jaw strength and stability to demonstrate tongue-jaw dissociation, and you're wanting to start working on tongue tip elevation.  I always start with activities described in Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson's book Oral-Motor Exercises for Speech Clarity.  One of Sara's techniques to achieve the strength and muscle memory for tongue tip elevation is to have the child hold a Cheerio to the alveolar ridge with his/her tongue tip for varying amounts of time and at various jaw heights, keeping the base of the tongue retracted.  This technique works extremely well for obtaining placement.  I use Cheerios too, but I also like to use Florida's Natural Fruit Nuggets, which are tiny little fruit snacks that are chewier than many other brands of fruit snacks, which is great for promoting jaw strength.

Kids love these!  And their parents always ask me where I buy them.  Target, in case you're wondering.

Once tongue tip elevation is established, it's time to work on resting posture.  Let's get that tongue off those teeth!  I like to move away from holding Cheerios/Fruit Snacks in place as quickly as I can and transfer that newly learned tongue placement to other activities.  I'm a firm believer that the behavior must be able to be maintained while a child multi-tasks in order for changes to be made.

1.  Choose something that repeats an action multiple times and is interesting to the child.  One favorite is Lakeshore's Spin and Draw.  The child chooses a smelly marker, puts his tongue up to "the spot" and spins the spinner, making circles with the marker.  When the spinner stops (after about 10 seconds), the child relaxes his tongue, and chooses another color.  He repeats this process until all the colors are used.  This is a great way to get 8-10 repetitions of positioning/relaxing the tongue, which will improve tongue strength, jaw strength and muscle memory.

2.  A little  Angry Birds anyone?  This a great game for the next step of performing multiple actions while maintaining correct resting posture.  I've broken this game down into steps, which are used as "check points" for monitoring tongue placement.  It goes like this:
   1.  Choose a card.  Hold your tongue in position until you select one.  Check.
   2.  Collect the required pieces to build the structure.  Hold your tongue in position while you collect.
   3.  Build the structure.  Hold your tongue in position while you build.  Check.
   4.  The structure is complete.  Check to see if your tongue is still in the right place.
   5.  Put a bird on the launcher.  Check to see if your tongue is in place.
   6.  Launch the bird.  Hold your tongue in place while you launch.  Check.
   7.  Repeat sequence.

The reason I have all the check points is that I want the students to get into the habit of monitoring their own tongue placement at regular intervals.  Creating new muscle memory takes lots and lots of practice and lots and lots of self-awareness.

3.  Find It!  is another great game for practicing resting posture.  The student maintains correct posture while finding objects hidden in a bead-filled tube.

Every time they cross an item off the list, they check to make sure their tongue is in the correct position.

4.  Puzzle games where the students have to manipulate an object with their hands to solve a puzzle while maintaining resting posture are also an excellent choice.  Think Fun makes many fun games for kids of multiple ages.

Unhinged is one of my favorites.  Students have to arrange a series of connected hexagons to match a picture like this:

Another favorite is Make and Break Game by Ravensburger.  In this game, the student chooses a card that features a block structure, and then builds a matching structure.

You can play this a variety of ways to practice resting posture.  You could play it the same way as Angry Birds, with a series of check points along the way, or you could play it with the timer and see how many structures the student completes before the timer goes off, all the while maintaining correct resting posture.

5.  I like to use word games and brainstorming activities for maintaining resting posture for longer periods of time.  

I'll set a timer for 5 minutes, prompt them to put their tongue on "the spot" and have them complete a word puzzle.  I will randomly ask them to check where their tongue is throughout the five minutes, and have them nod if they do.

6.  Remembering to use correct resting posture outside of the therapy room is EXTREMELY difficult for almost all my kids working on this skill.  We've tried sticky notes on the bathroom mirror, on the television and all over the house, but what we've found is that those sticky notes just become part of the landscape after a day or two.  One thing that seems to be working for two middle school girls is to involve their cell phones, their most prized possessions!  One girl chose to put a small sticker next to the "home" button on the front, so it would remind her to check her tongue placement whenever she pressed the button.  The other girl's phone has a security code, so she chose to make a new secret code that would remind her to check her tongue placement anytime she typed in the code.  They both report having success with these reminders...of course AFTER school hours!

These are just some of the things I do to keep a tedious (and difficult) task interesting.  How about you?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Keepin' it fun,


April 10, 2013

Froggy's Feeding Frenzy

Happy Spring!  In honor of all the happily chirping birds and croaking frogs outside my window, I created a new game:  Froggy's Feeding Frenzy!  Here's what it looks like:

Do you remember Rudolph's Crazy Cookie Exchange Game?  This one is very similar, except with a frog/bug/bird theme that can be used year round.  Check out that post to see what I'm talking about.

Players take turns feeding bugs from their own "collection" to the animals by following the directions on the playing cards.  Here's a sample of the direction cards:

Play continues until a player serves all of the bugs in his or her collection to the hungry animals.  It's not as easy as it seems...sometimes the animals want to trade their bugs with a friend, and sometimes they get a little fussy and send some bugs back.

This game is great for working on a variety of goals in addition to following directions.  It's chock-full of opportunities to work on those pesky /r/-blends, third-person singular verbs and negatives, not to mention rule following and turn-takings skills.

Swing by my TpT site for a full description of this game and to download a preview here.  Graphics credit goes to JW Illustrations, Kelly Medina Studios, Goodness & Fun, and Small Talk Graphics.

Have fun and let me know what you think!


March 9, 2013

Monkey Business Combo Pack

I had so much fun using my Monkey Business cards for /sh/ this week, and I got so much great feedback from many of you that I made a combo pack for R, S, and L and Blends!

This pack includes 27 pages of cute monkey cards organized into three sets:  R/ R-Blends, S/ S-Blends, and L/L-Blends.

Each set features its own distinct colored frame around the target words, and a symbol indicating the position of the target sound.  The R/R-blend set contains 8 initial position, 8 medial position, 16 final position, 32 blends and 8 blank cards.

 The S/S-Blend set contains 8 initial, 8 medial, 8 final, 24 blends and 8 blank cards.

The L/L-Blend set contains 8 initial, 8 medial, 8 final, 16 blends and 8 blank cards.  Each set also contains a banana page to record answers.

I'm finding this activity to be really helpful for transitioning to using these sounds in spontaneous speech.  It's also a great language activity, because the students need to name 5 items in a category or talk about 5 features of an object.  Who doesn't love an activity that hits both speech AND language???

You can find this combo pack at my TpT site.  If you download it, please leave feedback!